KM6ZJK’s Shack in a Box

Front view: radios and display

By Bruce Schubert-KM6ZJK

I thought I’d share my “Shack” in a Box / Go Kit which is nearly complete.  This HF/VHF/UHF portable setup normally operates on my workbench in my shack, but it has also run out of the back of my Jeep or on a small camping table.  The setup includes a 35A power supply and a 16Ahr LiFePO4 battery.

The portable setup started with a new inexpensive (cheap) 19″ 6U rack case that I purchased off of eBay.  The deep doors accommodate microphones, keyboard, mouse and other paraphernalia.  Instead of purchasing multiple 2U panels for the kit, I bought some inexpensive 48″ aluminum rulers from Harbor Freight and cut/drilled/painted  ruler segments to make custom panels for mounting equipment and to improve the structural stability of the case.

Inexpensive 19″ 6U rack case with one of the doors attached.

The portable case includes a Kenwood TM-V71 VHF/UHF radio and a Yaesu FT-891 HF/50 radio. The case houses a Raspberry Pi model 3B with a Nexus DR-X crosspatch.  Both radios are connected to the Pi via the Nexus DR-X.  The Pi is connected to an 11″ HDMI display, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a GPS.  A four-port USB hub is accessible from the front of the case.  I added LED strip lighting to the top of the case for night ops.  A master power switch and an on/off switch for the Pi make powering the system on/off easy.

Internally, the setup has a Samlex 1235M power supply and an inexpensive LiFePO4 16Ahr battery.  These two power sources are routed to a West Mountain Epic PWRgate to provide a power OR gate and smart battery charger. I adjusted the Samlex’s power output from 13.8V to 14.5V to properly charge the battery.  14.5V is within the two radios’  input voltage specs. Anderson PowerPoles and inline fuses are used throughout.

Rear view: power and wiring

The setup will be complete when I add a digital voltage display to the front.  I also want to mount the display via a piano-hinge across its top to allow tilting the monitor for a better viewing angle.

For those that want to know, the weight of the portable setup–with the battery fully charged–is 45 lbs.  The multiple handles on the case make it easy to carry. The interconnection between the radios and the PI is facilitated by the Nexus DR-X. Several connection possibilities exist with the crosspatch. I used 6-pin DIN cables to connect the audio/data from each radio to the PI’s individual left and right audio channels. CAT control on the Kenwood is via a serial to serial/USB connection. CAT control on the Yaesu is via USB.

I used an OS image from AG7GN to populate the Pi with several amateur radio applications, including the Fldigi suite, WSJT-X, CHIRP, Direwolf, and many more.  It also includes an update program to keep the Pi up to date with the latest versions of the applications.

I hope these pictures and descriptions are an inspiration for building/improving your own go-kits.

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